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Buying Basic Glassware Basics

Obsessive (Compulsive?)
I don't have everything on my wish list, but I'm a little embarrassed to admit that with all of the spirits, liqueurs, syrups and bitters in my cabinet, I could stock a small bar with a respectable selection. If that weren't enough, I am a sucker for unique glassware. I adore vintage coupes, sour glasses, tumblers, copper mugs, silver julep cups, trumpet flutes and so on and so forth. Don't even get me started on wine glasses. The variety can make for some nice photographs and interesting recipes, but it got me thinking that my strange obsessions are probably not the norm, not even for those of you that regularly visit Summit Sips.

Less Is More
There is another philosophy exemplified by David Solmonson and his excellent blog, 12 Bottle Bar. Rather than collect every odd liqueur, gin and aged rum on the planet, David embraces practical constraints of space and budget. His high concept is to limit the cabinet to twelve bottles. It's a fascinating idea that has universal appeal—take a peek into most home liquor cabinets and you'll probably find about a dozen bottles.

To a cocktail enthusiast, twelve bottles can feel severely limiting when you need to cover vermouths, whiskies, gin, rum, tequila, bitters, liqueurs and so on. However, a carefully chosen inventory like David's can produce plenty of classics and inspire fantastic exercises of creativity. Check out his blog here. I think he's is really onto something, and if I ever decide to give up my obsessions, I think I could give this a try—just don't tell my wife yet.

12 Glassware Cabinet?
So I figured, if David can limit his liquor selection, maybe it's possible to do the same with glassware. What would I buy if I was just starting out? These were questions I was pondering at Target the other day while doing a little holiday shopping. I realized that I only regularly use three types of glasses, so I wondered if a typical retail store could satisfy my needs if limited by cabinet space or budget. I decided to stroll down the housewares aisle to find out.

A basic glassware set would have to be versatile, inexpensive and appropriate. I focused on three styles: cocktail, tall/Collins, and lowball/rocks. Virtually every cocktail would be covered, and some glasses could work double or triple duty for water, juice, soda and so on.

More than you need and not the right selection.

Results
One of the first solutions that caught my eye was the Libbey combination box that seemed to have everything—glasses for wine and beer and even cocktails and shots. It looks like it even comes with a mixing glass and strainer. However, it doesn't really satisfy my criteria for cocktail glassware. Beer glasses are nice, but you could use a more versatile highball, and we aren't looking for beer mugs. The shot glasses are unnecessary, and although I love wine, that wasn't the point of this adventure either. I decided separate purchases would be more appropriate and it probably wouldn't cost any more money to get what you want in the end.

A fantastic choice for lowball/rocks glasses.

Lowball/Rocks
I started looking at rocks glasses and found a few perfectly serviceable solutions. Again, Libbey makes good options here. For less than ten dollars, I like the four-pack of slightly tapered Heavy Base rocks glasses. At 6.5 ounces, this is the perfect size for an old fashioned, drinks with chunk ice, spheres or cubes. Even crushed ice classics like the Mai Tai work in these. The thick base will keep them from tipping, the tapered contour will prevent them from slipping out of your hand, and the elegant simplicity is exactly what I was hoping to find in a lowball style rocks glass.

A great Collins style glass

Tall/Collins
With the rocks glasses covered, I looked for a good Collins. Libbey came through again. With more than one style to choose from, I scanned the shelf carefully. You could opt for a highball similar in style to the Heavy Base rocks glasses, but I picked the Libbey Zombie glass. It was at that moment that I noticed the boxes were branded with an "Entertaining" series packaging which might make them easier for you to find. This Libbey line also has a rolled lip that should help protect them from chips. Again, for under ten dollars you can get a four pack. At 13.5 ounces they are definitely tall and slender, even for a Collins, but they meet the need, and with this much volume they can double as dinnerware. So far, so good.

Cocktail "Up"
The final challenge was the cocktail glass. This is for serving drinks up, and unfortunately, the choices were somewhat outdated. Libbey's retail options at Target included two variations. The first, a standard martini v-shaped glass was a whopping 12 ounces—much too big for classic cocktail proportions. They look nice enough, but a glass that big will be hard to fill, and even if you make doubles, by the time you get halfway through a drink the glass will be warm. Send these back to the 1980's please!

These cocktail glasses are just too big!

The second choice was the signature z-stem. Again, a v-shaped glass, this too was simply oversized. At a more reasonable 9.25 ounces, we are getting closer to a workable volume, but unfortunately, it would be a mistake to buy these for the same reasons mentioned above. If they were seven ounces I might be tempted, but I'd rather see something under six.

 

The perfect cocktail coupe.

Perfection?
The perfect basic choice, in my opinion, would be Libbey's cocktail coupe (model 3773 Embassy Champagne Glass) at 5.5 ounces. It's the right size, it has a gorgeous shape (nicer than the flatter, 4.5 ounce), and it's the glass being used by many upscale cocktail bars around the country. We occasionally find them and make them available on the Summit Sips Store, but if you want them new, these seem to be only available from restaurant supply stores by the case. I wish Libbey would pick up on the champagne saucer cocktail trend and offer these in retail "Entertaining" packaging of four instead of three dozen. I suppose you could enlist a few friends and combine your resources to buy a case. They are definitely worth the effort.

So, while not entirely successful, two important glassware styles are available for a reasonable price, but the third may be hit or miss. If we don't have any used ones, a little searching online and you might be able to find the Libbey 3773 in smaller quantities. But the way I see it, this leaves room for a little indulgence in vintage stemware of which there is a bewildering assortment in the Summit Sips Antique/Vintage Store. It's a way to have it both ways. You can get the basics covered easily at your local retail chain and still enjoy some unique vintage items.

Update, March 2011:
During a recent trip to a Target store here in St. Paul,  I still found a decent selection of rocks and highballs, though shelf stock is sometimes hit or miss. What I didn't see was the Zombie glasses. These might be a little harder to locate, so it might help to call ahead. Perhaps a customer service agent can assist with locating stock. I found them listed as item 200-03-0266 on several online wedding registries.

20 comments to Buying Basic Glassware Basics

  • [...] and tools recommendations here, friend Randy over at Summit Sips has just posted an extensive guide to buying quality glassware at Target.  Randy is a vintage stemware fiend, but he, like us, wanted to see if less can actually [...]

  • Scott

    Randy...you could always do what i do, and stock up on "rocks" glasses at holiday time with the various gift sets out there....(i am cheap, but some are nice...albeit labeled with a whiskey or the like...JW Black often has good ones, or Glenlivet or Crown...of course you've got to like the booze or plan to gift away the booze...)
    Last question..what do you know of the glassware you have in the pics with the Sidecar and Aviation, i inherited a similar set (different color (blue) and not that particular style, but similar stems) after my grandmother passed...they are some kind of high end german glass bought in the late 50's/early 60's she told me before she passed)

  • Scott,
    Those glasses are called "Candlewick" made by the Imperial Glass Company and they are pretty easy to find, though often not at a good price. Sets can help reduce the overall cost, but individually, you are lucky if you find them for under $20 per stem. They were made as early as 1936 through the seventies I think. There are several styles. The ones you referenced are from the 3400 series. I love them! There are many different sizes, but these are the tallest and the widest bowls of the 3400s that I could find. Ones not quite as tall are often called "sherbet" goblets, but who knows if they were for dessert or not. I suppose you could serve whatever you wanted in them. Everything from water/juice glasses to punch bowls and candy trays are out there--many pieces characterized by the spheres around the rims. A similar series they made which might be what you have is the 3800. These have a slightly different look to the stem and the bowl has a different shape. They were all made in three colors, Crystal, Ruby Red and Ritz Blue

    I also love the third Candlewick series that is quite a bit different called the 400/190 series (I have no idea what all the numbers mean). The 400/190 has inverted SMOOTH hollow stems rimmed with the little spheres on the foot. Look at my Basil Oil post and you can see one holding the Jackson Pollock cocktail. These are easily confused with another type usually called "Boopie" for some reason. The difference is that the "Boopie" has a reeded base that is usually shorter, but still has the spheres around the bottom edge (I think they are molded designs with visible seams).

  • Brandon

    Randy,
    I realize I am posting on a subject after which sometime has passed, but I have run into the "won't sell less than 3 cases" problem with the libbey 3773. I'm curious if you know anything about these casablanca replica glasses on amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/Casablanca-Champagne-Coupe-Set-4/dp/B004HPC124/ref=pd_sbs_k_1

    They look generally the same and come in a pack of four. They also have them in a two pack, referred to as stork club replica glasses.
    http://www.amazon.com/Stork-Club-Champagne-Coupe-Set/dp/B0047W4NLO/ref=pd_sbs_k_2

    Let me know what you think and perhaps I'll order these.

    • Brandon, I am guessing the case size is actually 36 glasses. I see that quantity a lot, and I imagine the limiting factor is that warehouses are not setup to break apart or open a case. It may be a matter of Libbey not packaging these for individual sale, forcing shops to get creative about packing and shipping. It's just easier to sell them in the boxes they come in. As for the Casablanca, those look identical, and in fact, they may be. It seems all it would take is someone willing to buy in bulk, then sell in smaller lots and maybe make a little profit. I admit that I have considered buying a case or two for myself and selling the quantity I don't use. I have the basic storefront to do it, it just boils down to handling the inventory and shipping--something I would do if I knew there was a market of interested buyers like yourself.

      I did a quick search and I did turn up a store online selling a subset here. This looks like someone doing exactly what I would. It's a better price than the Casablanca and you get three times the glasses (give some to friends or as party favors). I don't know how reputable that seller is, but they do have a nice rating on Amazon. They sell a lot of glassware through Amazon, but not this particular model.

  • Brandon

    Thanks Randy. I have actually tried to order from sales store and though you can choose to order only one, when you go to checkout it tells you that the minimum order is 3. Bummer!

  • Aw, really? That is a bummer. So, they, too are simply leaving the glasses in the case. It's hard to blame them, when you think about how they would need to get other boxes, repack, and so on.

    You might be surprised how often you can find these and very similar glasses for under a buck at second hand stores or antique shops. I have at least three glasses like these that I picked up here or there. I used to be concerned about matching sets, but it's fun for guests when you present a fancy drink in a vintage glass, especially when you only paid 89 cents for it! If it breaks, well, you just get to hunt for more! This is the approach I have taken. I hesitate to spend $44 on glasses that should cost only a fraction of that.

    On the flip side, when you are on the hunt, you inevitably run across beautiful antiques too. In the long run, this is where I think your money can be better spent. Nothing looks more beautiful than a champagne cocktail served in a tall, tapered trumpet flute! Buy those every time I see them, and as Scott noticed above, I am a sucker for Candlewick!

  • I just realized that Adam at thebostonshaker.com is selling coupes individually. It looks like his "Coupe Cocktail/Champagne Glass, 5 oz.", item: CWLI-COUP-5.5 might actually be the Libbey 3773. He lists it at 5 ounces, but the 5.5 in the item number tells me it might be the right glass. It's definitely worth shooting him an email about it. You could get 4 of these from him and save $$$ over the Casablanca pack anyway.

  • Brandon

    By George, Randy, you're right! Thank you so much. Finally the search is over, and 7.50 a glass isn't too bad at all.

  • I have looked everywhere for Libbey 3773 glasses in quantities less than the usual 3 dozen. I have given up. So I'm going to order 3 dozen and sell 2 dozen of them. I will sell them for less than $7.50 a glass...probably in blocks of 2 or 4 glasses.

    I will post back here when I have the glasses available.

  • Did you try The Boston Shaker? I am pretty sure their glass here:

    http://store.thebostonshaker.com/index.php?product=CWLI-COUP-5.5&c=47

    is the libbey 3773, although there is a chance it's the similar Anchor Hocking model. A quick note to Adam there would answer this question very quickly. Now, perhaps you don't want to spend that price, and that's OK, but if they ARE 3773's, you can certainly buy them there in whatever quantity you want.

    In any case, you can certainly post a link to your leftover stock here if you like. When they are gone, I can take the comment off so it doesn't mislead others later.

  • Hi Randy. I think Boston Shaker does have the 3773. But I wanted to get 12 of them, with is almost the same $ as buying 36 from a restaurant supply company. So I was just going to get the 36 and then offer 24 cheap to spread the love.

    BUT, I just did one last search, and I found 3773 glasses for $2.99! at:

    http://www.thebrooklynkitchen.com

    Shipping to the midwest via UPS for 12 is about $13, so very reasonable. I'm just going to get them from there. No reselling necessary...

  • Wow! Great find. They must have recently added this, or recently updated their SEO because this is about as clear as day--Libbey 3773 right on the product page. Thanks for following up. I may even update my post above with a link. I hope you enjoy them. I think they are just right. I'd love to find out what you think after you have tried them!

  • Yeah, I think you are right. In my searching for less than 3 dozen Libbey 3773 glasses, I got to page 15 of Google results and never saw this store.

    Actually I have tried these glasses many times at a speakeasy type bar called Manifesto. They are great glasses. They are heavy enough to hold a chill for awhile. And I won't stress about chipping them when I store them in the freezer like I do with my Riedel cocktail glasses.

    If the cocktail yields more than 5.5 oz, at Manifesto they pour the excess in a little beaker that comes with the drink. I probably won't go that far at home.

  • They do the same thing with the mini-carafes at the Bradstreet Crafthouse here in Minneapolis as well as The Violet Hour in Chicago (and likely, the Patterson House in Nashville). I don't use the carafes either, but it's a nice touch. I have also seen martinis served this way with the excess in a little kicker carafe placed in a bowl of crushed ice. Very nice presentation indeed!

    Despite the ever-growing collection of vintage stems, it's tempting to add a few of these for the freezer door.

  • OK, got a dozen Libbey 3773 glasses from the Brooklyn Kitchen. They showed up and they are the correct glasses. No problems. First cocktail in them was an Atty. Yum.

  • Great to hear the glassware worked out! As for the Atty, I am curious about the recipe you are using. Erik at Underhill-Lounge called this an early favorite moving through the Savoy, but he thought it needed a quantity booster. There was some discussion about vermouths and gins, but I am curious what proportions you like. It would make a good feature for the Drink of the Week here.

  • I think the Savoy book calls for 3/4 part gin, 1/4 part Vermouth, and then dashes (can't remember how many) of absinthe and Creme de Violette.

    I do:

    2 oz dry gin (Beefeater)
    3/4 oz Dolin dry vermouth (green label)
    2 dashes absinthe (St George)
    4 dashes Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette

    Stir, strain, lemon twist.

    That is a little more vermouth than called for (Savoy would call for 2/3 oz here), but I love Dolin and it has gotten me to up the amount of vermouth I use sometimes. Also, I just kind of felt like a little "wetter" drink.

    St George is pretty hearty absinthe, especially in the wormwood and fennel, so I only do about 2 dashes. For a more feminine absithe, maybe 3-4 dashes...

    The Violette is good at 4 dashes for me--too much and the drink tastes like soap (why is that???).

    For dashes, I am thinking about 1 dash = 1 mL, or about 1/5 tsp. I have a little 10 mL measure I use for these, or for 2+ drinks you can start using a teaspoon.

    The Atty was the first cocktail in the Savoy book that pretty much blew me away (pretty good book if it only takes to the back of the A's to find a really good one). The Olivette is awesome, too.

  • Thanks for your recipe insight. Consider it added to the DOTW calendar for a future post! I lack Dolin Dry, so I might have to sub Noilly Prat, but I have Beefeater and St. George. As for the Violette, I have read more than a few comments about R&W tasting artificial. Perhaps that's part of the problem with the "soapy" taste. It's taking me a while to go through my bottle even with all of the Aviations that get requested, but it has led me to put Creme Yvette on my "to buy" list.

    Everything I dash is setup in eyedropper bottles, including absinthe. This works nicely for dribbling down the sides of glasses for a rinse when that is required. I should have pretty good control over the quantities, but it does sound like the Atty needs extra care to balance everything.

    I'll check out the Olivette. Thanks!

  • No way, now I have a reason to get Creme Yvette...I have been holding off but even at $40+ a bottle, if I'm just using dashes and such, it will hold out for a long time. I have read that Yvette has a different flavor profile than Violette, but they seem pretty similar.

    I'll try a Blue Moon tonight to see what happens with 1/2 oz of R&W Violette (yummy or Lever 2000?)...

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